Doctor Agrees to Treat Dying Winnipeg Patient
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
A doctor from Winnipeg's regional critical-care program has offered to treat an elderly patient on life support at Grace Hospital. The 84-year-old patient's name is Samuel Golubchuk. Three doctors at the hospital have refused to continue to provide care to the elderly patient, including Dr. Anand Kumar, who had resigned earlier this month. Other doctors who quit their shifts include Doctors Bojan Paunovic and David Easton.
According to Heidi Gramham, spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, other doctors have come forward and agreed to provide care. Golubchuk's current "physician of record" will be supported by two other physicians.
"Our regional critical care program and hospital have developed a plan that involves having one attending physician of record for the patient in question," Graham told CBC News on Wednesday morning.
"This physician will be supported by two other physicians. These three physicians have already agreed to this, and this situation will allow the other physicians in the Grace intensive care unit to continue with their scheduled rotations if they so desire."
Graham also confirmed that discussions are underway that could result in the return of some of the doctors who refused to care for Golubchuk.
Golubchuk, have been on life support with minimal brain function at the Grace hospital since last November. Doctors have commented that he has no brain function and should not be kept physically alive on a ventilator.However, withholding treatment that would end Golubchuk's life would violate his Orthodox Jewish beliefs.
Golubchuk and his family are Orthodox Jews who believe it is immoral to hasten death.
"When a person is born, it's written down when they're going to die. So it's God that decides this, not the doctors," said Miriam Gellar, Golubchuk's daughter.
Gellar said her father still makes eye contact with her and is able to squeeze her hand. She believes he could still recover and that the doctors who refuse to treat her father are "misguided" and have "no compassion."
"We feel he knows we're there with him. We gave him his card on Father's Day and his eyes lit up," she said. "Give the person a chance to recover and, you know, to live out their life the way they're supposed to. We're speaking for him. This is his choice."
Last month, Golubchuk's original attending physician Dr. Anand Kumar resigned and now no longer work in Grace Hospital's critial care unit. One of the reasons mentioned was due to the "grotesque" medical services that were needed to be performed to treat his former patient. Further details can be found here.
Last month, in a letter to the Winnipeg health authority, Golubchuk's original attending physician, Dr. Anand Kumar, said he would no longer work in Grace Hospital's critical care unit because it meant providing medical services to his former patient that were "grotesque."
Golubchuk had developed bedsores, Kumar wrote, and doctors were having to trim infected flesh from his body to prevent infections from spreading.
"To inflict this kind of assault on him without a reasonable hope of benefit is an abomination," Kumar's letter said. "I can't do it."
Hospital officials decided last year to end Golubchuk's life support, saying he had virtually no chance of improving. But the Golubchuk family took the matter to court, saying the move would violate his beliefs as an Orthodox Jew. Removing the ventilator or feeding tube would constitute an action to hasten his death, they argued.
The hospital is currently under a court order to continue providing treatment to Golubchuck.